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Posted by on Aug 22, 2008 in Media, Politics | 8 comments

McCain Launching Multipronged Counterattack On Obama Response

If you thought you saw negative campaigning up till now, to use a phrase made famous in the 1980s by Ronald Reagan and in the 1920s by singer Al Jolson: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

On a day when Republican John McCain got pounded in an ad by rival Democratic Senator Barack Obama for not knowing the number of houses he owned, the McCain campaign is sending out signals that it may go nuclear.

There apparently are several prongs to what sounds like a no-holds-barred approach.

First, there’s this new McCain ad quickly put up that raises Obama’s ties to Chicago’s sleazy land wheeler-dealer Tony Rezko.

See The Politico for more details.

The second prong, according to the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, is that the McCain campaign is accusing Obama of going more negative than they have and are using this as a justification for moving into what sounds as if it’s going to be a no-holds barred phase:

Though McCain is widely perceived to to drawn first blood by attacking Obama’s character, the official said that the difference between Obama’s mocking McCain for his wealth and his shaky answer on the number of homes he owns was that McCain’s charge “reflects an existential reality,” where Obama’s charges “attack Cindy. She owns the homes. I thought he said the wives were off-limits.”

Wait! Roll the tapes…Where did Obama mention Cindy McCain? How many people would have known that until it was….mentioned by the McCain campaign?

And “existential reality”? Is someone on the McCain staff taking meditation?

The third prong can be seen in a hint that the campaign will soon go for The Wright Stuff:

McCain strategists hope that Obama’s brass knuckles punch doesn’t work. “Americans don’t like this class warfare stuff,” the official said. They aspire to be rich, the official said. They don’t aspire to eat arugala or hang out with celebrities.

Brace yourself for more arugula ads, or perhaps ads linking Obama with Whole Foods, Henry’s Marketplace or one charging that he eats organic yogurt.

But here is the kicker:

Earlier in the news cycle, McCain’s press team invoked Obama’s friendship with a former member of the Weatherman, William Ayers, and an official said that even Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, “is now fair game.” The official declined to say whether the campaign was contemplating running an advertisement linking Obama to Wright.

UPDATE: There is a fourth prong, one not directly-tied to the McCain campaign. ABC News reports:

A conservative group called the American Issues Project will tonight begin running a TV ad in Ohio and Michigan highlighting Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., ties to Bill Ayers, a member of the 1970s radical group, Weather Underground.

Using images of the U.S. Capitol on 9/11, and then rewinding to images of it 30 years ago, the ad reminds viewers of Weather Underground’s effort to strike the Capitol, Pentagon and police stations. A narrator then notes the Obama/Ayers friendship and that Obama is on the record defending Ayers as “mainstream.”

“Why would Barack Obama be friends with someone who bombed the Capitol and is proud of it? Do you know enough to elect Barack Obama,” a narrator says.

There appears one flaw in the McCain campaign’s argument that, due to Obama’s ad about McCain’s forgotten houses, Obama has now gone negative so they they are forced to follow suit:

For WEEKS the huge political news story in the mainstream media, the new media, on cable political discussion shows and left and right talk radio has been John McCain’s decision to go negative in his campaign — accusing or insinuating (choose your word) Obama of being unpatriotic (and later parsing words to deny he did), running ads saying Obama was out of touch and a callow celebrity a la Britney Spears, etc. The story for weeks has been how McCain who once vowed a civil campaign went negative big-time after being stuck in the polls. And how Obama barely responded.

The other part of the STORY has been how this negative campaigning has been working and how McCain’s poll numbers have risen. Other stories noted that McCain was on a roll and that his side intended to keep the strategy and momentum going. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

Meanwhile, a recent poll found that a large chunk of the American public also feel McCain has been gone more negative than Obama:

By a nearly six-to-one margin, voters say Republican presidential candidate John McCain is running a negative campaign against his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Nearly three in 10 voters, 29%, pointed to McCain as the candidate running a negative campaign, compared to just 5% who said Obama is running a negative campaign. McCain’s 29% rating is the highest of any one candidate in the previous two presidential elections according to the WSJ/NBC News survey.

In October 2004, 15% of voters identified both President George W. Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry as negative campaigners. In July 2000, 8% identified Bush as a negative campaigner, while 13% said Vice President Al Gore was a negative campaigner.

However, 41% of respondents said neither McCain nor Obama is running a negative campaign, while 19% said both men are guilty of using negative tactics.

In recent weeks, a number of McCain’s television and radio ads have gone after Obama as a “celebrity” candidate.

So there’s no need for Google Web, Google News, weblogs and news editors throughout the world to delete the sea of erroneous stories…because they’re accurate.

It has long been predicted by pundits and writers in the new and old media that by the fall McCain and the GOP would use the Rezko scandal and remind voters as much as possible about Obama’s fiery former pastor. McCain’s negative campaigning had made headway, but forgetting how many houses he had clearly was a big political mistake.

So now, using the old theory the best defense is a good offense, the McCain campaign has accelerated the long-anticipated schedule — and is apparently launching a version of Hillary Clinton’s controversial but effective “kitchen sink” strategy.

Obama got a glimmer of good news today in a new poll from Michigan that’s a bit surprising since it conflicts with the spate of polls showing Obama’s campaign going south faster than senior citizens heading to Miami in the winter:

Independents, women and Wayne County voters helped boost Democrat Barack Obama to a 7-point lead over Republican John McCain in the presidential race in Michigan, according to a Detroit Free Press-Local 4 Michigan Poll conducted this week.

Obama’s 46% to 39% statewide advantage is especially aided by a 39-point bulge among voters in Wayne County, including Detroit.

Elsewhere in metro Detroit and outstate, Sens. McCain and Obama are virtually tied, according to the poll of 600 likely voters. Twelve percent are undecided and 3% support third-party candidates.

Obama has significantly more support among voters younger than 35 and an 11-point lead among women statewide. Among men, the two candidates are virtually tied.

Several other recent polls had shown the race tightening in Michigan, which is among a half dozen or so battleground states expected to decide the presidential race. The state has 17 electoral votes.

But it’s not all good news: 31% of those polled said they’re open to changing their minds.

These are the voters Obama and McCain are grabbing — or perhaps, more accurately, flailing — to get as Campaign 2008 gets livelier, and nastier.


Taylor Marsh:

Obama’s ad was one of the best of the season, and here is one of the worst. Clearly rushed, with ominous drum hits and unpleasant narration…this ad is laughable, especially when the happy music suddenly arrives at the end just in time for McCain’s approval message. They’ve done way better.

This opens the door for Obama to hit back even harder tomorrow, and in a more dignified fashion, but we may well be talking about something else by then.


The latest campaign kerfuffle is Obama’s effort to make hay out of John McCain’s inability to tell a reporter how many houses he owns. McCain mumbled something about condos and said the reporter should talk to his wife. Predictably, Obama is trying to spin this exchange as showing that McCain is “out of touch.”

I can relate, though. For example, if a reporter asked me how many ties I own, there’s no way I could answer. Just like McCain, I’d tell him he has to ask my wife. Likewise if someone wants to know how many Wii games my kids have.

….The truth is that McCain isn’t out of touch with “ordinary people” because he’s rich, he’s out of touch with his own domestic arrangements because he cares little about material things, and for many years has devoted his extraordinary energies not to enjoying his wife’s money, but to serving the American people. Given the number of nights he’s spent in hotels or on military bases over the last few years, it’s no wonder he hasn’t seen much of his wife’s condos.

The Huffington Post’s Eric Schmeltzer:

The real problem is that, once again, Senator McCain has become Senator Complain – whining that it’s just not fair to question him. It’s an act that wears really, really thin, really, really quickly. Americans who are afraid that they may have a house foreclosed on don’t have much sympathy for someone whining that questioning them about their seven or eight homes is just mean. Having your family tossed out on the street by a lender is mean. Answering questions from reporters is pattycakes.

-Ann Althouse:

How many houses does he have? “It’s seven. Worth thirteen million dollars.” You don’t want a President who’s managed to become rich, do you? So pick Obama, who lives in a hut. No, wait, that’s Barack’s brother George. Obama lives in… that Chicago house that cost… how much?..Today’s the day things really went negative.

The Anonymous Liberal:

Go ahead, try to follow that logic. Obama’s former pastor is now “fair game” because McCain doesn’t know how many houses he owns? The fact that Wright’s name is even being mentioned just shows how desperate the McCain camp is to quell the fallout from this gaffe. They’re hoping to scare the Obama campaign into backing down by threatening to play the Wright card.

It won’t work, though. There’s no way that the press will see this line of attack as “opening the door” to attacks about Reverend Wright. Moreover, the Obama camp knows that McCain and the Republicans will play the Wright card eventually anyway if it looks like they need to. The fact that they’re threatening to do so now is just an indication that they’re genuinely afraid that this gaffe will hurt McCain.

The Jed Report:

It should be no surprise then that the McCain campaign is launching the tired old Tony Rezko attack on Barack Obama. To which I respond: Yawn. You bore me. Been there. Discredited that.

Instead of these kinds of attacks, John McCain should figure out how many homes he lives in. But if you insist on going down this road John, let’s talk about you and your wife and the Charles Keating scandal

Marathon Pundit:

The John McCain campaign unveiled its latest ad today, “Housing.” It could be the first of a series. McCain hits the Cult of Change leader on the head over his ties to convicted felon, Antoin “Tony” Rezko.

My DD’s Jonathan Singer:

The McCain campaign thinks that it has an opportunity to turn their candidate’s stupendous gaffe — failing to recall how many houses his family owns — into a positive by running an advertisement linking Barack Obama to Tony Rezko. Obama, claims the McCain campaign, got help buying his house from Rezko, a Chicagoan who has since gone to jail but received some $14 million in taxpayer money.

The problem with this attack? Aside from being thoroughly misleading — Obama has not been seriously alleged to have done anything unethical in his interactions with Rezko — this ad is a serious strategic blunder by the McCain campaign. Why? It blows wide open the door to talk about McCain’s all-too-close relationship with Charles Keating and well reported on though somewhat forgotten charter membership in the so-called “Keating Five.”

LA Times Top of the Ticket blog:

But the McCain camp struck back in a flash. In plenty of time for the evening news on the East Coast , it was up with an ad that mentions Obama’s “million-dollar mansion” and questions the Democrat’s dealings with Chicago political fundraiser — and convicted felon — Antoin “Tony” Rezko.

Obama’s camp isn’t likely to drop the “McCain doesn’t know how many houses he has” line soon. It thinks it will help paint McCain, the man who defined “rich” as having $5 million, as an out-of-touch elitist. But at the rate that political fires get put out these days, we wonder what kind of impact it will have.


Perfect timing because Keating is back big time — and McCain did it himself through his weak attacks on Obama about Rezko. McCain shouldn’t have gone there, but he did….Keating is back. It’s an ugly story. Lots of taxpayer money wasted. And, I didn’t know Cindy was right in the thick of it.

Housing Panic:

This race is getting ugly. Kinda fun, no? Never wrestle with a pig they say. You get dirty and they enjoy it. Karl Rove is in heaven. But at least they’re talking about housing (kinda)

Ostroy Report:

After many years of having Sean Hannity pollute the airwaves, I finally agree with something the right-wing spinhead said on his program Thursday: “People who live in glass houses ought not to throw stones, don’t ya think?” The irony is that he was referring to Sen. Barack Obama and the many Democrats who’ve publicly admonished Sen. John McCain this week for owning a reputed 7-10 high-priced luxury residences all over the country.

…..Hannity and Limbaugh relentlessly railed on about how Democrats like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Al Gore, Howard Dean and Chris Dodd also have multiple homes, but you don’t hear Democrats criticizing them. “Since when did democrats care about how many houses people own,” Hannity asked with fake sincerity. Well Sean, let me makes this easy for ya pal: that’s because unlike your desperate, crotchety, name-calling candidate, Obama isn’t running around condemning anyone for being an elitist…until now that is. McCain started the elitist wars, not the Democrats. Remember, people in glass houses…..

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